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About short breaks

Short break support is for those children and young people, with disabilities or additional needs, who cannot do many of the things that most children their age can do.

What is a short break?

Short breaks form part of a range of services, which support disabled children and their families.

Short breaks are provided to give:

  • disabled children and young people enjoyable experiences away from their primary carers, thereby contributing to their personal and social development and reducing social isolation
  • parents and families a necessary and valuable break from caring responsibilities

Who are short breaks for?

Short break support is for those children and young people, with disabilities or additional needs, who cannot do many of the things that most children their age can do. 

This would usually include children and young people with a disability who:

  • need additional help and support to complete daily tasks and routines, which others of their age would usually be able to complete - e.g. being able to wash and dress themselves or being able to get ready for bed
  • need more help and support than others of their age to do all the things that children and young people enjoy - e.g. having interesting things to do, spending time with friends, or going out to youth clubs or groups
  • need more help and support than others of their age to be safe - e.g. having someone to be with them to help them stay healthy or to make sure they do not get hurt
  • are likely to need ongoing support from services in adult life

Who might be provided with a service?

Children and young people with disabilities aged 0-18 years and their families.

Why a short breaks service?

Most families spend time together but often children and parents like to have some time to themselves to do the things they want to do. For some families it is not that easy. Their children and young people may need someone with them all the time and parents may feel that they can never have a break. The child or young person might not be able spend the time away from parents that helps most young people to become more independent.

The Short Breaks Service helps to commission and provide a range of short break services, which South Tyneside Council provides to the families of disabled children. The service publishes information about activities that are open to access for families or disabled children and young people. Parents can contact the service direct on 0191 424 4416.

What short breaks are available?

There are many different types of short breaks and not all of them are right for every family. Some are available to most families and some are for those families who most need support.

Short breaks might include the following:

  • The child or young person attending one of the many youth clubs, play schemes or activity groups that are available for all children.
  • The family taking part in social events, activities or outings together.
  • A support worker taking the child or young person out, or helping in the home - the worker may be employed directly by the family, or provided by the Council or by another agency.
  • The child or young person spending time at a specialist group or club or at a specialist short break centre.

How do families get short breaks?

This depends on how much support they need.  Some families need only information and advice in order to find the short break they need. Other families may need further support including a level of specialist support. Further information and contact details are given below.

Families who need information and advice (level 1)

Some families with a child with a disability do not want nor need specialist short break support. Their child can attend youth clubs, groups or centres which can meet their needs - in South Tyneside we are working towards the position where all universal services are able to provide a service to all children.

These families are entitled to receive newsletters and information.

The Short Breaks Service can give information on a wide variety of weekly activities, day trips and holiday schemes available to all children with a disability and can also signpost families to further services and support available within South Tyneside. In addition the Families Information Service can signpost enquiries to the appropriate service and can be contacted on 0800 783 4645.

If the child is between 0-18 years old, has a disability and lives in South Tyneside families can choose whether they access this information or use the Short Break Service. The service can be contacted on 0191 424 4416 or

Families who need a low/medium level of support (level 2 and 3)

Although families can continue to use the services described above, some may feel they need additional support for their child to be able to access activities outside school hours. They may find caring for their child a challenge. They may find that they are not able to take part in all the usual things families do. An Access Fund has been designed to provide funding to help remove barriers that prevent children with disabilities accessing opportunities readily available to their non disabled peers. The fund is designed to support children who do not meet the social work threshold but who are unable to access activities independently.

Families can request assistance to organise a short break service if they feel that:

  • their child or young person needs support to go out and do the things other children their age do
  • they need assistance to go out as a family because their child's additional needs make it impossible for them to go out without support.

The Access Fund Request Form will need to be competed and submitted by a 'Lead Professional' - a doctor, pediatrician, community nurse, teacher or other professional, who knows the child well.
The professional, along with the family, would also need to complete an Early Help Assessment and Plan.
If a Carers Assessment was completed at this point this would greatly assist the process.

Although not an exhaustive list, the funding can be used to provide:

  • Training
  • Specialist equipment
  • 1:1 support

It is important to note that the funding is intended to provide 'stepping stone' support for a set period of time (typically 12 weeks). It is designed so that the support given during the 12 weeks will remove the barrier to access and allow the child or young person to continue to access the activity independently from week 13 onwards.

Families who need a high level of support (level 4)

Some families are in very difficult situations and need a high level of support. The support might be needed to ensure that the child is kept safe and that the parents are able to carry out their caring role. There may be a danger that, without this support, there may be a family breakdown.

The family, or a professional working with the family, can make a referral to the Children & Families Social Care's ISIT team. Where appropriate a social worker will undertake an assessment, which will include information from other professionals who may be working with the child. This should include a Carers Assessment, which needs to be completed as a matter of routine at this point.

Where the assessment indicates a need for specialist provision, the Contact and Referral Team will make a referral to the Children and Adults Disabilities Service.

When families require a high level of support, this is based on the assessed needs of the family and the following will be taken into account:

  • Support should be provided in a way that provides an enjoyable experience to the child as well as providing a break for the family
  • Support should not be provided at a level that leaves the child feeling confused about where they live or who is their main carer.

Short break services can include:

  • A direct payment so families can employ a worker.
  • The family being provided with a budget to support their plan.
  • A worker being provided directly by the Council or an agency being paid to provide a service.
  • The child attending a specialist group or club.
  • The child attending a specialist centre for day or evening support.
  • The child having overnight care away from the family home.
  • A support package, in the home or elsewhere, for children who have a high level of unpredictable healthcare needs.

In these situations, short breaks will usually be only one element of a multi-agency plan that addresses the needs of the whole family. If the family/carers are unhappy with the decision then they can ask for the decision to be reviewed.

For advice relating to tier 4 support please contact the Contact and Referral Team on 0191 424 5010

For more information on tiers 1-3 support please contact the Short Breaks Service for Disabled Children on 0191 424 4416 or email


View the Short breaks statement.

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